Bach E Major No. 2 For High School String Orchestra? Possible?

Edited: December 26, 2018, 1:25 PM · So I've been the concertmaster of my school orchestra since Freshman year, and as a token of appreciation, My teacher would like to recognize my efforts in All-county, All-state and overall leadership at school, with a violin concerto.

Keep in mind this is a highschool orchestra, very average. 15 violins, 5 violas, 7 cellos, 1 Bass.

Would bach E major no.2 be a stretch with intonation?

Replies (19)

Edited: December 26, 2018, 3:44 PM · As the former bassist of a high school wind ensemble and jazz band, I can safely say that pretty much everything is out of reach. I don't think there was anything we could play... If you could play a three octave scale, you were miles ahead of the curve. Dunno about your orchestra, but if it's like my bands were, you have my condolences.
Edited: December 26, 2018, 5:25 PM · If they normally play out of tune, they're going to be out of tune on the accompaniment for this. It's frankly easier for a bad high school orchestra to accompany Bruch or Mendelssohn or the like, than to accompany Bach or Mozart or Haydn (or Paganini).
December 26, 2018, 5:31 PM · Depends on the orchestra, doesn't it? I conducted a HS orchestra for a year that had very advanced players. And it depends on whether or not they practice, and how many have private teachers. The range here is big.

As far as intonation, students typically have issues with leading tones. So they may need help with the G#s and D#s.

December 27, 2018, 8:14 AM · I disagree entirely with Tom. The experience of playing a concerto with orchestra is very rare and very valuable, and you should take it. You'll learn a huge amount from the experience. Nobody with an iota of experience or sense would encourage you to give it up. Also, it's gold on your musical resume.

Double concertos are another experience entirely, as are concerto grossos. They are not a substitute.

December 27, 2018, 10:50 AM · I think the Bach is actually harder than a lot of other things. I would pick something with much more straightforward string parts. My son just suggested 4 Seasons -- not all of it, but some of the movements have very straightforward simple accompaniment. If you can add a few winds, something like Zigeunerweisen isn't too hard to put together.
December 27, 2018, 1:00 PM · hey Tom Supakorndej, Shut up, Kindly.

I've given more back to our program than (to quote my director) 'any senior before': it is simply a rite of passage for my final stretch. Being the first string state musician since 2013 and annually nominated to festivals, it is appropriate.

I am not showing off. I've done alot for the team. I arranged several pieces, worked with ever section in sectionals of my initiative and have consistently made sure all filing etc. has been done.

Have you had a concerto that has gone wrong, Tom?

December 27, 2018, 1:01 PM · Lydia, your insight is consistently meaningful. thanks.
December 27, 2018, 3:50 PM · Susan's thought is a good one. My public high school orchestra (not all that good) did Vivaldi's "Spring" with our concertmaster one year. It's straightforward enough for everyone.

My experience is that playing Baroque concertos with orchestra has a really different feel than playing a Romantic-or-later era concerto, though. I notice in a previous post that you mentioned you were playing Bach E major with orchestra. I'd pick a different concerto since you've done that one already. Similarly, you mentioned in another post that you were performing Mozart 4 with orchestra. Another good reason to pick a concerto from a post-Classical era.

My aforementioned high school orchestra did fine accompanying me on Mendelssohn (which we had to borrow players from the band for).

Edited: December 27, 2018, 8:18 PM · Oh for pete's sake. Nothing in the OP or in any of his subsequent posts has resembled gloating. It seems to me he's being offered an appropriate spotlight after being a strong support for his high school program for four years. His original query was about choosing a piece that would work with his particular orchestra, not about choosing the biggest possible show-off piece. I have no idea why this has elicited such an effort to tear down someone who is coming across as a hard worker and a good kid.

Lydia gives good advice, and Susan's comments are also well chosen.

Edited: December 27, 2018, 8:45 PM · Whenever I hear someone brag that they finished all on the A string I'm sorry to say my first reaction is to wonder whether they were playing Seitz concerto no. 5 or no. 2.

Bruch has a tricky tutti section that might be hard for a high school orchestra. I agree something like Four Seasons would be doable - plus, several of the movements are very well known popularly, so they'd be crowd pleasers. If there's a string orchestra version of Monti's Czardas that might also be an option - the full orchestra parts are pretty straight forward, and the soloist has room to spice up the solo part as much as he or she might want.

Edited: December 27, 2018, 9:08 PM · Bach is fine. Might the A minor be easier for the ensemble? Mozart 3 is also pretty easy for orchestra but longer. You coukd do first movement. If you bring off a nice cadenza nobody will remember the orch was not perfect.
December 27, 2018, 11:51 PM · +1 to Mary Ellen.

Orchestral intonation problems are ultimately an issue for the soloist as well. Hearing chaos behind you can be very disorienting to your own ear, and even your own hard-won solid intonation can be perceived by the audience as out of tune if the orchestra has too many intonation problems.

What to play depends on the conductor's time constraints (when he says "violin concerto" does he mean a work that lasts 15 minutes like the Bach E major does, or as long as 40?), and the available orchestral rehearsal time, as well as the available instrumentation. If this is limited to a string orchestra accompaniment, the options are pretty much going to be Baroque. And there's the question of when this will be programmed, which will influence whether or not the OP has time to learn something new if need be.

So Alex A, can you provide more details?

December 28, 2018, 12:16 PM · So we are a string orchestra, and due to the fact she has also selected simple symphony, It will most likely be the first movement of a concerto. The brilliance of the E Major certainly is much nicer than the A minor. We won't be able to borrow band players, unfortunately.

Thanks for the continued insight.

December 28, 2018, 2:37 PM · I have played the E Major with orchestra, although it was a professional pick-up orchestra. Your high school orchestra would probably do about a C+ version, and I agree that intonation issues could be disorienting for you.

What about the 3rd movement of the a minor, if Vivaldi 4 Seasons isn't an option?

Edited: December 28, 2018, 7:05 PM · I think the E-Major concerto may work. But you are right that E-Major is a tricky key. And Bach goes will beyond into even more tricky territory. In that regard the a-minor concerto is definitely easier.

Another option might be Haydn C-Major. It would be easier on the orchestra and the sections where the soloist plays are generally accompanied in a lighter texture than Bach used. This should make intonation in those sections easier. I found the concerto very rewarding when I practiced it first and I still love it.

Anyhow you might want to discuss your apprehensions with the conductor of the orchestra; he/she should know what they can achieve.

December 28, 2018, 8:29 PM · The E major is a good choice. Go for it.

As a member of a high school orchestra back in the day. we accompanied a fellow student (our concertmaster) playing the E major ( all three movements) We did fine and our parents loved it.

December 28, 2018, 11:21 PM · The E Major will contrast better against Simple Symphony in my opinion.

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